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Update on Novel Coronavirus

Published January 30, 2020

Dear WashU Research Community,

We are closely tracking the spread of the new coronavirus, first identified in December in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. At this point, there are no known cases of the virus in St. Louis, but there are cases in the United States, and it’s likely there will be more. The situation is changing rapidly, but we will provide updates when new information or guidance needs to be communicated.

Symptoms of this infectious illness include fever, cough and difficulty breathing. Based on current information, symptoms can appear anywhere from two to 14 days after initial exposure to the disease and can be transmitted from inhaling or touching infected droplets – usually through a cough or sneeze – from an infected person.

If you have traveled from China in the past 14 days (whether or not symptoms have appeared), and are:

  • A student on the Medical campus, you should notify School of Medicine Student Health Services at 314-362-3523
  • An employee on the Medical campus, you should notify School of Medicine Occupational Health Services at 314-362-3528
  • A student on the Danforth Campus, you should notify the Habif Health and Wellness Center, 314-935-6677
  • An employee on the Danforth Campus, you should notify your primary care physician or (if you have symptoms, the BJH Emergency Room, 314-362-9104)
  • Any such students or employees should monitor themselves for fever, cough and difficulty breathing.

Anyone with these symptoms should make a follow-up call to the appropriate offices as listed above, and follow instructions to get evaluated. It’s important to call before showing up at a doctor’s office or emergency room.

Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Washington University Physicians are working closely with infectious-disease physicians at the medical school and local health departments to screen for any cases. We follow guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for identifying and managing patients of concern.

During flu season, you will often see people on campus wearing masks. Please be reassured that seeing someone in a mask does not mean they have been exposed to this coronavirus. Again, we currently do not have anyone in our community being evaluated for this virus.

As of Jan. 29, the university’s International Travel Oversight Committee Executive Body implemented a travel suspension condition for all travel to mainland China. This is in accordance with the CDC Warning – Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel health notice for mainland China; the U.S. Department of State’s Level 3 Travel Advisory: Reconsider Travel for mainland China; and the university’s international travel policy. This condition will be re-evaluated when the CDC or Department of State change their levels of guidance.

Travel suspension conditions apply to university-sponsored or supported trips. They do not apply to personal travel. For details on how travel suspension conditions apply to students, faculty and staff, please see the university’s international travel policy. Remember to register all university-affiliated international travel with the university’s travel registry, MyTrips. Registering your itinerary automatically subscribes you to safety alerts from International SOS, a medical and travel security services firm. For additional information about travel suspensions, email

It’s important to note that cold and flu season is nearing its peak. In the absence of travel to affected areas in China, or exposure to a known case of novel coronavirus infection, the presence of these symptoms is likely related to a cold or flu. Please remember to practice cold and flu prevention techniques.

Members of our campus community are reminded to take precautions — wash hands often and with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze; avoid touching your eyes — to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

For further information, please visit the CDC’s website at

Thank you for helping to protect our campus community.

Jennifer K. Lodge, PhD
Vice Chancellor for Research